Blue and Gold Illustrated

June/July 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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24 JUNE/JULY 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI A couple of weeks into Notre Dame's 2016 football season, freshman receiver Chase Clay- pool was approached during a team meal by senior captain and Sam linebacker James Onwualu. "He joked around and said, 'If you keep making plays and tackling peo- ple, you might get moved over to defense. We'd love to have you over here,'" Claypool recalled. Onwualu could identify with Clay- pool. As a 2013 freshman, Onwualu started four games at receiver because of his physicality as a blocker and as a special teams stalwart (six tackles). The Canadian native Claypool had "redshirt" written all over him as a freshman because the former basket- ball star — where his first collegiate scholarship offers came — with lim- ited exposure to big-time football was repeatedly labeled a "raw talent." Nevertheless, the staff couldn't over- look his range (now 6-4, 224 pounds), physicality and playmaking skills. Claypool totaled five catches for 81 yards while utilized more as a blocker, but it was on special teams where he found his niche with 11 tackles, nota- bly a team-high seven solo stops. Head coach Brian Kelly admitted the thought of Claypool making an Onwualu-like shift to defense was dis- cussed. He had the frame to grow into a defensive end, the aggression to excel at linebacker and the speed to line up at rover or safety. Claypool played all of those position — plus receiver and punter — at Abbotsford High School in Abbotsford, British Columbia. First-year Notre Dame receiv- ers coach Del Alexander is grateful about keeping Claypool on offense. "He's passionate when he crosses the line, which is a big deal," Alexan- der said. "He plays fast, which is a big deal. He plays hard and physical, and then he's still trying to adjust to the finer things [releases, leverages, under- standing defenses, technique]. We're moving past the raw talent part. We're moving more toward him being tal- ented, physical and with great speed." Prior to his senior season, Claypool envisioned suiting up at the University of British Columbia, where his older brother Jacob Carvery played for the Thunderbirds as a 5-10 receiver. Carv- ery became the conduit for Claypool's football dreams when he introduced him to Eddie Ferg, the coach of the Air Raid Academy in Vancouver, a seven- on-seven operation that provided ex- posure against top competition, plus tape to send to college coaches. "I couldn't play summer basketball with my club team, but [Carvery said], 'If you talk to this guy and train with this guy, he will get you an offer in two weeks,'" Claypool remembered. "He sent my film out, and that's kind of how I got my first offers." Among the coaches contacting him was Notre Dame recruiting coordina- tor Mike Elston, who extended an invitation to Claypool to attend the 2015 Irish Invasion. "I asked my coach if Notre Dame was any good, and he told me they were in the national championship just a few years ago," said Claypool, whose knowledge about the school expanded when he watched the movie "Rudy" on the plane trip there. Irish Invasion was the first among many camp trips that summer that included the prestigious The Open- ing in Beaverton, Ore. "My first couple of camps were pretty rough," Claypool said. "I got beat on a lot of reps. It didn't really discourage me. Rather, it encouraged me and motivated me to keep prac- ticing because I knew I can hang with those guys." Clocked at 4.66 seconds in the 40 at The Opening, Claypool's experiences also revealed how seven-on-seven football is a whole different world, and that he had to distinguish himself with physicality and non-stop energy. "I couldn't take off a play like in high school because no one else is taking a play off," Claypool said. "I thought I was going to redshirt [as a college freshman] just because being from Canada, having to adjust. … I was like, 'I don't know if I can do this.'" What he did know was that Notre Dame was where he wanted to be. "Growing up, my dad always stressed education," Claypool said. "I think that those [other schools] just didn't interest me as much as higher education like Notre Dame did. "So as soon as I got that offer, I knew I had to come see it. And I knew that if I liked it, I'd be coming here." By the end of his senior year, Clay- pool had become a four-star prospect and the No. 109 overall player in his senior class while nabbing 58 passes that averaged 25.4 yards (18 touch- downs), totaling more than 2,000 yards of total offense while also recording 74 tackles and five interceptions. This spring, among the receiving positions Claypool was aligned at included the slot to take advantage of some potential mismatches in an offense that has promised to be more up-tempo. His energy and desire also has been fueled by the death of his sister, Ashley, about five and a half years ago from a suicide. She would have turned 22 in February. On Claypool's arm is a tattoo that reads: "A thousand tears won't bring you back. I know, because I cried. Nei- ther will a thousand words. I know, be- cause I've tried. Until we meet again." "At first it didn't affect me because I didn't think it was real," Claypool said. "It was shocking when it set in. Look- ing back on it she did give signs, and I wasn't there … I always use it as moti- vation, trying to make her proud." ✦ Thrill Of The CHASE Sophomore Chase Claypool is among a budding pool of receivers "HE'S PASSIONATE WHEN HE CROSSES THE LINE, WHICH IS A BIG DEAL. HE PLAYS FAST, WHICH IS A BIG DEAL. HE PLAYS HARD AND PHYSICAL, AND THEN HE'S STILL TRYING TO ADJUST TO THE FINER THINGS. WE'RE MOVING PAST THE RAW TALENT PART." NOTRE DAME WIDE RECEIVERS COACH DEL ALEXANDER ON CLAYPOOL

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